Archive | January, 2003

WSJ: ” FCC Flooded With Letters Opposing Media Consolidation”

According to the Wall Street Journal the FCC has received over 1700 comments on the upcoming media ownership rules reviews. The article attributes the flood to some coordinated campaigns run by consumer and advocacy groups, which according to an unnamed “former FCC insider” means that the commission will likely note the volume but not necessarily pay much attention to their arguments.

Instead, the article acknowledges that it’s the broadcast industry that matters most, not the public:

“Likely to receive more careful scrutiny from the FCC are comments from the industry itself, which wants the commission to dismantle the rules, or those associated with it, such as the Writers Guild, which wants the status quo preserved.”

And, to that, I say “that’s bullshit,” even though I’m sure it’s true that the FCC won’t give much heed to the comments from individual citizens.

It’s bullshit because the public isn’t given any other means of expressing an opinion on the issue — one public forum in Richmond, VA doesn’t cut it. On top of that the comment process isn’t exactly user-friendly — it’s oriented to highly-paid communications lawyers and their staff rather than you and me. So it should be no surprise that it requires a coordinated campaign in order to educate people and give them tools to let them comment on an issue that’s of grave democratic importance.

It’s a Catch-22. The public is allowed to comment, but to actually engage in the process involves a steep learning curve on the bureaucratic process. But when individuals utilize systems put together to make using the comment system easier, their voices are discounted, because, as the “former FCC insider” put it, “the mass of comments appears “obviously somewhat ginned up.”

If concerned citizens had actual direct access to the FCC — the ability to actually dialog and come to understanding — in the same manner that industry does, then perhaps I’d be a little less critical of the commission’s apparent attitude towards these public comments. But instead the average citizen is alienated from the agency that holds sway over her communications environment, and then damned for using the only reasonable tools at her disposal.

The FCC is not serving the public interest when it doesn’t actually listen to the public.

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Concern about Media Monopolies Plays in Peoria

Last week I spoke with a media reporter from the Peoria Journal-Star, Steve Tarter, about the upcoming FCC media ownership rules review. He dedicated his Sunday column to the matter, and did a nice job following up some details about Central Illinois media owners:

“You’ve already got a situation where two of the area stations are joined at the hip (WMBD-TV, Channel 31, and WYZZ-TV, Channel 43). The bottom line to all of this is that you’ve going to have less diversity – not more. …
‘Sinclair Broadcasting (which owns Channel 43, the Fox affiliate in Bloomington) has dropped local news departments at some of its stations around the country,’ said Riismandel, pointing to the chain’s stations in places like Tallahassee, Winston-Salem and St. Louis.”

You can read the whole column on-line at the PJStar website.

I’m glad to see that a local paper in a small city is willing to run this kind of column that’s critical of the media establishment. It’s only too bad that the story gained momentum as the FCC’s comment deadline drew to a close. But it’s clear that’s how FCC Chair Michael Powell wanted it to happen, since he and the other commissioners had the power to extend the deadlines in order to get more comprehensive public input. Obviously, there is no sincere interest in hearing from the public.

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Keeping up the Pressure With Public Access TV

Brad Johnson is a former Clear Channel radio engineer, a driving force behind Partytown on-line radio and a public access TV programmer in his hometown of Modesto, CA. He’s raised a bit of ruckus by showing on his public access TV show a clip of Clear Channel shock-jock Bubba the Love Sponge slaughtering a live pig.

Showing that clip generated a number of complaints — enough so that it got coverage on the local paper.

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